Goodbye, Agency Life

28 Jul,2021


By Ramesh Narayan


Ramesh Narayan

I had always talked about retiring when I turned 50.


And friends always laughed it off as “third-drink talk”.


The logic was that when I started off in advertising, like everyone else, I had some lofty items on my wish list.


Good clients. A good bank balance. Some awards. Some role in industry affairs.


And these appeared to be shimmering mirages on the horizon. As distant as the age of fifty, when you are starting off in life.


Then suddenly toward the end of 2005, I realised I would be fifty in a few months. And I was in a cozy comfort zone. The Agency had grown. We had some blue chip clients, five offices across India. I had a team of colleagues whom I really liked. We had won some awards, in India and some international ones as well. I had served two terms as President of the Advertising Club and two terms as President of the Advertising Agencies Association of India. I was on the Board of the Audit Bureau of Circulation and the National Readership Survey Council. I prided myself as someone who ran an Agency that did not discount its 15% commission so was rather profitable. And all this had been done by the time I was 47.


So in the years between 47 and 50 I was experiencing a growing feeling of unease about the way the advertising industry was developing. Media agencies were a reality. Unbundling had already taken place without a whimper of protest from the professionals who ran the big agencies. Probably because most of them were on a retirement mode by then. Large agencies who looked me with disdain twenty years ago when I began handling public sector companies were actively chasing them with absurd offers of 15% discount. Pitches were more ferocious and advertisers were happy to feast on a buffet of ideas, free of charge, during every pitch. Consultants and clients strategized. Agencies implemented.


This was not the advertising industry I had signed up for. And then a friend was talking with me and said “even if you win this rat race, remember, you are still a rat”.


So I spoke with my wife Devi for all of five minutes, and with my team at the office and proceeded to resign the HDFC Ltd. Account. I knew that when HDFC accepted that resignation I would be on a path of no return. And so the next day I knew my life in the advertising agency business would soon come to an end.


I called Jacob Mathews who was then President of the Indian Newsapers Society and told him not to worry if he heard stories of Canco shutting shop. They would be true. But I would pay all my dues and honor all my commitments. He graciously said he never had a doubt about that.


I waited till the last employee found a job and then went public with the news.


I resigned from all industry Associations, and never attended an industry party or function for two years after that.


A journey of 25 years with great colleagues, wonderful friends and fantastic memories. And I didn’t want to sell my Agency. As I said to a newspaper in an interview, “I was too old-fashioned to continue. Too stubborn to change”.


Lesson learned. It is very difficult to get out of a comfort zone. But as the old song goes “if what you’re doing, doesn’t do it to you; walk away from it all”.


Extracted with permission from the author

A Different Route to Success – It Could Be Yours

By Ramesh Narayan

Notion Press

110 Pages

Rs 299 (paperback), Rs 51.45 (Kindle)



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